UK police claim study support to resume live facial recognition deployments
London Metropolitan Police officials and their counterparts in South Wales say a study they commissioned and participated in has given them the confidence to resume live, historical and operator-initiated facial recognition surveillance.
The United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Service and South Wales Police worked with the UK National Physical Laboratory to test systems that in some cases had been used until being paused.
The Met issued a statement saying, “We will used facial recognition technology as a first, but significant, step towards precise community-based crime fighting.”
South Wales officials likewise published a definitive statement: “Deployment of live facial recognition technology will now resume.”
The facial recognition research report, published last month by the national lab, with support from Ingenium Biometrics and the University of Kent, backs police claims that facial recognition surveillance can protect human rights as it reduces and prevents crime. Privacy advocates who have opposed its use say nothing has changed in the danger to rights that innocent people will face just by walking a sidewalk.
Testing simulated surveillance actions police might initiate, including changing settings to address different factors. In measuring live surveillance, researchers used the default setting of Neoface software.
When checking against 10,000 reference images, one in 6,000 people were falsely matched and there was “no statistically significant race and gender bias,” according to a statement issued by the Met.
False matches rose to one in 60,000 when a watch list contained 1,000 images.
According to the report, previous versions of NEC’s NeoFace were notably less exacting, when testing against a watch list of “between 2,000 and 4,000” over four deployments showed an average false positive rate of 1 in 1,000.
Privacy advocacy Big Brother Watch condemned the report, issuing a statement saying, “1 in 6,000 people being wrongly flagged by facial recognition is nothing to boast about.”
The group says this type of surveillance not only is not governed by a UK law, but it has not been subject of parliamentary debate.